Friday, July 30, 2010

14k Versus Alloy

A mighty tension exists between one's spirit and one's flesh. No one among us is exempt, at least not this amonger.
Rarely have I seen that tension more evident than in the faith versus works, works versus faith arenas.
Today, as I've been considering the scriptures penned by Paul to the Thessalonians, I am reminded again (and again) that sanctification is a process, as well as the domain of God alone. It's not wrought in me - or for me - by me.
My flesh doesn't much like that fact (or any number of others), but my spirit is greatly humbled by so amazing a plan.
The Westminster Catechism explains sanctification this way:
"...the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more-and-more to die unto sin, and to live unto righteousness." (For a wide collection of related, supporting scripture & thought, go here ...)
Again, my flesh doesn't always get that, or even like it. When I come across scriptures like the following one, I often want to grab shovel & ax and begin picking (and choosing) my way into my own sanctified goldmine.
"It is God's will that you should be sanctified."
1 Thessalonians 4:3
Surely if it's God's will for me it must require something of me? Surely?
Then I move on down the page to discover my shovel & ax are useless in this regard.
May God Himself - the God of peace -
sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body
be kept blameless at the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The One Who calls you is faithful,
and He will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
So why is it my flesh insists upon being it's own lord & savior; it's own method & means of being sanctified?
Probably because I can't (won't) believe He doesn't expect it of me. And there's the REAL trouble at it's root: can't or won't believe.
Besides, how do I know what constitutes sanctification in my life?
Were it up to me, I'd craft an ordeal of my choosing that most certainly wouldn't entail trouble or trial. It would, however & most likely, come off as sanctimonious - - a result that is NOTHING like the one He has (present tense) in mind.
In the end - for me - it's all about leaning into and onto Him. What's required is that I know Him and His word - the truth; that I believe Him and surrender. No shovel or ax required.
It's a job - His - that's undertaken from the inside-out, rather than the outside-in. If it were, then I'm consigned to whatever MY hand (and shovel & ax) can pick out - sometimes gold alloy, sometimes fool's gold, and sometimes a bunch of mud.
They are not of the world,
even as I (Jesus) am not of it.
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
John 17:16-17
... from the beginning God chose you
to be saved through the sanctifying work
of the Spirit
and through belief in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:13
More about the process:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


... whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is admirable,
whatever is lovely -
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -
think about such things...
and the God of peace
will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9
Too often it escapes my notice, or my attention, that others are struggling with truly troublesome trials. The lapse in my observation skills is always due to my being focused on my own stuff; and usually that stuff is trivial by comparison.
I've been visiting various blogs this morning, and it didn't take long for a lump to form in my throat. So many of you are tired and weary and troubled, and rightfully so! Your plates are full or your challenges rugged. I long to come alongside and help or to comfort.
So today I'll keep YOU in thought & prayer, knowing that the noble, the right, the pure, etc., will become the flood that ushers in your peace ... and mine.
My love to all,

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tutoring My Soul

Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

For You, Lord, have delivered
my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
and my foot from stumbling
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
Psalm 116:7-8
It began in earnest late March. That's when we made the firm decision to pull up our Arizona roots and return them to the loamy soil of Washington State - our childhood home, as well as the roost of all three children, their spouses, and seven (+ two honorary) grandchildren.

With so much time to plan and organize, you'd think the actual move would come off without a hitch or a hiccup. You'd think.

Alas, no great adventure is truly memorable unless and until some drama is added. Some.

Last week, on Thursday, we began loading the moving van. From there, the addition of the aforementioned drama began, and then unfolded like this ...

  • Many of our belongings wouldn't fit on the truck so they had to be left behind. Many.
  • Upon arriving in Puyallup, the Penske truck decided to die right in the middle of one of the busiest highways - roughly 200 feet from the storage unit that was our destination.
  • Because it was a Sunday, getting service & help entailed LONG phone waits, as well as long truck-sitting until said help arrived - all the while experiencing the best and worst of people trying to maneuver around us (some waved - sincerely with one hand; or insincerely with one finger)
  • Eventually a bigger-than-believable tow truck (that could haul an airplane) showed up and got our rig off the highway.
  • For what seemed the entirety of the night, the fate of the Penske truck AND our worldly goods was in question.
  • As of today, the Penske truck WITH our worldly goods were again hauled by the mongo-tow truck to a Penske Service Center for repair.
  • Just got a call that the truck is again operational (a computer "glitch").
  • The truck cannot be unloaded until Saturday (long story; I'll spare you the details). We are officially vagabonds until then.
  • Where do you park a 26 foot truck until you can unload it?
  • I'm really glad we don't drink. I'm even more glad that we have finely honed senses of humor!

I'll close with the scripture I opened with - - the one that hit me powerfully early Sunday, long before the full drama of this particular adventure set in. It's an adventure without culmination as yet.

Be at rest, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

For You, Lord, have delivered
my soul from death, my eyes from tears,
and my foot from stumbling
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
Psalm 116:7-8

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Energy Deficient

Can anybody say "whooped"?!!

Today's the day we began loading the truck and, God willing, will finish the job tomorrow morning. That means everything's torn down, and all bedding, towels, etc., are now laundered & packed too. So that also means we'll not be sleeping in this house tonight, opting instead for the local Marriott.

Besides, shortly we'll head to the airport to pick up daughter Molly and her special guy Tom, and Molly's daughter Rylie. They'll help with the finishing touches tomorrow, then dead-head for the Pacific Northwest in Terry's car. Rylie is going to tag along with Grandpa and me in the truck for a slower, more "memorable" Arizona exodus. My car will be hauled behind us. (Why does Jed Clampett come to mind?)

I am so grateful to have had several months to plan, organize, prepare and pre-pack for this junket. Even so, this week and last have been rugged on so many levels.

While our 62 year old bodies are protesting, my heart has been counting the blessings here one-by-one. For every one thing we leave behind, I am confident there will be something new & wonderful just up ahead. But ... can anybody say "cry baby"?!!

My apologies to the many of you that stop by to visit, or that send me such encouraging emails as I've been poorly remiss in responding. I can assure you it's a derivative of moving and not neglect. Promise!

Tomorrow we'll box our laptops and go silent for the next 4 to 6 days.

See you on the other side, where even more chaos awaits us!

Did I mention we're 62?

My, oh, my ....

If you're too busy to go fishin',
you're too busy.
Jed Clampett

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Alchemy of Wisdom

If fear of the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom (and it is),
then what comes next?
Credentials. Don't we love 'em!? They serve a purpose, that's for certain; but all too often they infer, or confer something that may or may not be valid.
We do like our doctors, dentists, lawyers and teachers to have their degrees. We also want our political & corporate leaders to have all "the right stuff"; even though, more-often-than-not, we haven't a clue what that right stuff looks like. Credentials tell us a lot about the people we esteem highly.
History tells us "right stuff" changes with the generations or the cultures employing it, and it'll be just as fickle. Meander awhile in the Leadership section of any book store or the public library and it'll take about 10 minutes to ascertain what credentials were deemed vital 1840, or 1926, or 1978, or 1995. It'll take another 10 minutes to conclude they - the credentials that connote expertness - vary widely.
So, what is it that follows the fear of the Lord that takes us beyond the beginnings - the bedrock - of wisdom? What credential(s) might we add as a prefix or suffix to our name that tells the world we've arrived; that we're worthy? Is it education? The application of education? Life experience?
I don't have the answer(s). I'm merely wrestling with the "what comes next?". Is it listening, or learning, or comprehending, or obeying or ????
One thing I know: whatever the answer, it will be derived from the alchemy of knowledge and understanding. Therein lies a credential that is formed from the inside-out.
... My people are destroyed from
a lack of knowledge.
Hosea 4:6
... a people without understanding
will come to ruin.
Hosea 4:14
... it is the spirit in a man,
the breath of the Almighty,
that gives him understanding.
Job 32:8
The unfolding of Your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
Psalm 119:130
... if you call out for insight and
cry aloud for understanding ...
and if you search for is as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from His mouth comes knowledge
and understanding.
Proverbs 2:3, 4, 5-6

Friday, July 16, 2010

Domestic Dithering

It's 111 degrees and the weatherman is calling for monsoon storms. No doubt said storms will show up the day we plan to load the truck (can anyone say "Murphy's Law"?!).

Such is Arizona life in July!

The sundial has so few grains remaining and - consciously & subconsciously - I'm making lists and checking them twice.

We are ready - beyond ready - to make our exit exactly one week from today; but let me tell you it's been a long season of goodbyes and getting-readies! It's been an equally long season of tears and laughter, as letting go gives way to stretching forward.

Last evening our Home Team hosted a Flanagan Farewell party. I'm posting a few pics, but I'm sure you'll take my word for it when I say they simply cannot capture the affection, fun & solidarity shared among this amazing group.

If ever there was a batch of believers that made doing life together an artform, this would be that batch!

Now I've simply run of of Arizona days; and it's a good thing because I'm also running out of steam.

Right now my mind is doing mental gymnastics as I think through all those things that yet need to be done. I'm greatly relieved that so few items remain.

That said, the Domestic Dithers have set in; and I've been scrubbing woodwork, walls, ceiling fans, bathrooms, carpets (with brother-in-law Jim's help) and floors.

Murphy's Law also seems to warrant that a home is always in better condition on the day you move out than when you moved in! :) What's up with that, anyway?

Guess I'd better toss out all undone Sonoran adventures, such as ...

... learning how to make prickly pear pancake syrup
... hunting Havoline (aka wild pigs)
... climbing a rock wall in the Grand Canyon in search of petroglyphs
... donning a pair of leather chaps as a fashion statement
... raising mules (even though we live on "Mule Deer Way")
... driving the Apache Trail
... eating one more homemade pie from The Pine Country restaurant in Williams
... rustling rattlesnakes

Now I've got to begin working on my webbed-footed adventures list for the Land of Lush to which we soon head.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


But thanks be to God, who always leads

us in triumphal procession in Christ and

through us spreads everywhere the fragrance

of the knowledge of him.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ
those who are being saved and
those who are perishing.

To the one we are
the smell of death;

to the other,
the fragrance of life.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Honest: I did NOT make that word up - apocalypticism! It harks back to the ancient Greek, where it meant to uncover, to reveal, or to take the lid off.

For movie producers, it means mayhem and devastation; great gore for the sake of the box office draw.

For the average man on the street, it's associated with hideous & terrifying global devastation - be it natural disaster or cosmic warfare - ostensibly the wrath of God.

Even for my dear friend Merriam the connotation is clear: the expectation of an imminent cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil and raises the righteous to life in a messianic kingdom.

From movie-makers and Merriam's perspectives, it is the classic Star Wars epic: The Force will triumph!

So what is an apocalypse, anyway? Is it ...
  • something hideous to avoid?
  • a man-made bogeyman to disbelieve?
  • the stuff of fable & lore meant to keep the masses in check?
  • the unique domain of the authors of the scriptural text?
  • the dementia of a by-gone culture?
  • all of the above?

And whatever it is, does it have anything to do with me personally ... and why should I care anyway?

Yes; because it's the good news about The Good News.

I believe it's safe to say that everyone loves the Gospel. The saved are humbled and awed by it; and even unbelievers find the love & grace it offers a sweet consideration (though for someone else).

Yet no Gospel-giving account is complete without the true and certain knowledge that God has a bigger plan than the saving of individuals (as amazingly marvelous as THAT is!). The story and it's implications are huge, and hopeful.

Anything apocalyptic from the scriptural text - whether we understand it completely or not - is meant to encourage people and nations - personally and collectively. We can stand in the face of every form of trouble - even cosmic cataclysm - and know that the best is yet to come. Oil spills and political folly leave us looking up, not down our noses.

I know there are some that consider this subject too difficult to understand, or even to bother wasting one's time in attempting to understand. They might even assess my writing, blogging or views as being too deep at times.

The latter may be true, but certainly the former is not. There's a fragrance associated with it - the very knowledge of Jesus - that is ...
  • To the believer, the aroma of life.
  • To the unbeliever, the stench of death.
Either way, it is anything but enigmatic.

While we much prefer the Star Wars telling of anything apocalyptic, the fact remains: there's a story that's bigger still; one that is yet to be told or, rather, revealed.

One Source tells us us the apocalyptic form was "used to describe the use of symbols, images, and numbers to depict future events... The purpose of such symbolism, however, was not to cause confusion, but rather to instruct and encourage followers of God in difficult times.

The Apocalypse will be the ultimate revealing of God, His wrath, His justice, and, ultimately, His love.

Jesus Christ is the supreme apocalypse of God, as He revealed God to us ."

I call that Good News!

... testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."!
Revelation 19:10

P.S. Did you catch that: the ultimate revealing of God, His wrath, His justice, and, ultimately, His love? Yes, there's wrath involved, though it's hardly the tantrum-tossing-nose-thumbing action of an angry God Who's lost control of His temper. It's worth a post of it's own: What wrath is, and isn't. Another day ...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Folex: Get Some!

It's rare when I feel compelled to endorse someone or someTHING. But I simply must, while it's fresh on my mind, tell you about Folex.

Years ago, while living above the incomparable Puyallup Valley beneath the shadow of Mt. Rainier (where I'm soon headed again), our home was carpeted in white. In know ... not the best color for a family adding grandchildren one-by-one, but it was a color I'd always longed for when my own soda-sippers couldn't walk 3 feet without spilling something hideous.

So white it was.

Our youngest son lived at home still; and one particular day he came into the house for a break from his labors on his car. Unbeknownst to him, his shoe contained a glob - and I do mean GLOB - of grease. As soon as he sat down in the living room and stretched out his legs, he laid a strip of that glob across a 2 feet stretch of the white carpet.

Eureka! %!&$&@!*%#$@!!

That's when I made a discovery that would change my cleaning-life forever.

I don't remember how it came to be in my possession, but on that grease-laying day of old I got my white terry-cloth cleaning rags and the Folex, and began the seemingly useless effort of extracting the glob. "Seemingly"? You bet!

It took awhile, but in the end that grease glob was gone completely. No sign of it. No telltale residue. In fact, no electromagnetic film left behind to attract even more dirt in days to come (like EVERY other carpet cleaner I've ever used)!

The rest is history. I now buy the stuff in gallons and use it on everything from carpets to laundry to upholstery.

I could live without a lot of things; but not my Folex!

Get some.

P.S. The place I've found the best value for this item is at Walmart ($4.50 - $4.99 Quart Spray); Ace Hardware ($12.00 Gallon). Lowe's and Home Depot typically carry it as well; and I've even seen it in Safeway and Albertson's, though at a much higher cost.

P.S.S. The above-mentioned son, by the way, is still living. :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Self-Imposed Exile




Making & Taking Offense





It was during a particularly rugged stretch of marriage that I first became aware of it: Eeyore Syndrome.

It had afflicted me from time-to-time, but I hadn't a clue as to what it was; not until it's attributes were brought clearly into view by the wise (and dare I say godly) counselor(s) that helped both hubby and I navigate the aforementioned (don't you love that word?!) stretch.

Imagine my utter surprise to learn that suffering from Eeyore Syndrome is optional.

The condition requires that I either volunteer to be a victim, or that I take pains to ensure someone else feels like one.

The rules of play are simple (though often cloaked in clandestine and altruistic garb):
  • heap accusations (whether real or imagined) on self or others,
  • provide a one way ticket for a guilt trip,
  • seek to apply pressure by use of manipulation (versus open & direct communication)
  • keep the syndrome alive by nursing the bitterness it engenders
Eeyore Syndrome is, first and foremost, about me, me, me and me. In some convoluted twist of reason, I can actually convince myself that my negative feelings are not my fault, but the fault of that one, or this thing.

None of this probably sounds familiar to anybody else. But I can tell you it's a syndrome I've employed with adept skill. I recognize it in others because I recognize it in me.

It's also a syndrome I avoid like a plague - whether to use it myself, or to be clobbered by it at the hands of another - now that I'm aware of it's lethal nature.


Because it robs relationships of a healthy ebb & flow. It sets up power struggles; and, in fact, insists on them. It's a self-imposed or outwardly-applied condition that does not seek nor benefit from a win-win. It's only possible outcome is a win-lose, or lose-lose. It's what allows for the "poor me"s and the "how dare you"s.

That's why.

Besides, you can never assuage it. It requires a pound of flesh, but exactly which pound is unknown until you've actually met the condition or run out of the steam necessary to keep it alive, which might be never unless you're particularly good at heaping guilt.

The preventative or cure?
Finally ...
  • whatever is true,
  • whatever is noble,
  • whatever is right,
  • whatever is pure,
  • whatever is lovely,
  • whatever is admirable
  • if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
—think about such things...
And the God of peace will be with you.

Besides besides ... I've always liked Tigger better anyway.

Love is ... not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
1 Corinthians 13:

Did you ever stop to think,
and forget to start again?

Winnie the Pooh

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Integrity: What It Is & Isn't

If honor be your clothing,

the suit will last a lifetime;
but if clothing be your honor,
it will soon be worn threadbare.
~ William Arnot

Much is made of the condition we call integrity; and rightly so.

Certainly we want it from our leaders - be they among the body politic, scholastic institutions, employers, churches, the medical community, and even our neighborhoods.

I believe we desire it most from our family members and friends and - hopefully - from ourselves (though I am suspicious about one's ability to assess such a personal condition with objectivity).
After-all, it is among these that we most want integrity's by-product:

I have had more trouble with myself
than with any other man I have ever met.
~ Dwight Lyman Moody

Integrity derives from the concepts of integration, or integer (a complete number; the lowest common denominator). It implies congruency & steadfastness. In it's broader scope it means ...

1 : firm adherence to a code (especially moral or artistic values); incorruptibility
: an unimpaired condition/soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided

Incorrupt ... unimpaired ... sound ... complete ... undivided. Powerful attributes!

While there's plenty of talk about the pivotal role integrity plays in our lives, it's safe to say: There's a lot more to integrity than meets the eye.

It's equally safe to say, even though we speak far less of it: There's a lot more to the lack of integrity than meets the eye.

Isn't that always the way with the flipside of any coin? What looks all lovely on the upside isn't so pretty on the downside.

So what, exactly, does that look like; integrity's lack?

Simply put, it is the chink in the armor that allows one to be duplicitous, irresponsible, dishonest and unethical - both consciously and unconsciously.

Worse, it empowers & enables excuses, rationalizations and justifications. It exempts this behavior or that from the more rigorous demands of the moral high ground (aka the biblical standards for the believer) on the grounds that said behavior is warranted.

You can't learn too soon that
the most useful thing about a principle
is that it can always be sacrificed
to expediency.
~ Somerset Maugham

Most of what is seen of our lives is lived out above ground. Yet it's what takes place below ground, in the root system, that determines how the above-ground condition ultimately plays out, or appears. It's the reason we can say "time will tell", knowing that truth always triumphs.

The strength of a man's virtue should not
be measured by his special exertions,
but by his habitual acts.
~ Blaise Pascal

In the absolute sense, there's only One with perfect integrity; Whose words and actions are 100% congruous and certain.

For the rest of us, it's the challenge of living out our lives in such a way that both the root system and resultant foliage of those lives be incorrupt.

It takes integrity to have integrity.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pointing Fingers

" 'Now
this was the sin of ... Sodom:

She and her daughters were arrogant,
overfed and unconcerned;
they did not help the poor and needy.
They were haughty and did detestable things before me.

Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

You have done more detestable things
than they ... your sins were more
vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you.

You will bear the consequences ...

Yet I will remember the covenant I made
with you in the days of your youth,
and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.

Then, when I make atonement
for you for all you have done,
you will remember and be ashamed
and never again open your mouth
because of your humiliation,
declares the Sovereign LORD.' "

Ezekiel 16:49-52, 60, 63

I find it remarkably easy, even satisfyingly vainglorious, to rise up upon my high horse and point out the awfulness of this or that. It's not difficult to look at today's world and wonder if it hasn't altogether gone the way of Sodom and Gomorrah, so similar are the characteristics of these times. Sighs and rants, for me anyway, are easily crafted into an Ode to My Own Righteousness.

Certainly the scriptures admonish us to assess the times, to be alert, to beware, and to remain firmly & humbly positioned on the high ground (emphasis on "humbly"). But Oh! the temptation to survey the sights from there and point my finger!

Here, in God's own word, and contained clearly in a text that could easily be interpreted as a judgment against the nation of Israel, is some really good news; the same Good News found in the Gospel narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. What's more, it's just one among the many like-texts embedded throughout the Old Testament.

What strikes me as particularly compelling in Ezekiel's Chapter 16 is this:

  • Sodom's sin had more to do with their attitude than with their practices. They were first arrogant & complacent which - in turn - gave rise to their detestable practices.
  • God's own people were actually worse than Sodom's worst - - so says the text..
  • Though God holds individuals and nations accountable for their sin (and it doesn't matter if that sin is small or huge), it is HE alone that provides for sin's atonement. So much for my own feeble attempts.
  • The application of God's grace (salvation) is - first and last - His doing; Christ being the ultimate and ONLY atonement. The Good News doesn't get much gooder than that!
  • If God scolded His people THEN for pointing to Sodom as a proof of their own innocence, He's still admonishing us TODAY to not do likewise; to not compare ourselves with either the worst in our midst, or the best.
  • My comparisons need always and forever to be a vertical, and not a horizontal initiative. "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12
  • To understand and fully appreciate the everlasting (new) covenant He's transacted for me and with me, and in me, I need to see myself in Sodom. That makes it pretty darn tough to point at the other guy as proof of my goodness OR badness - believer and unbeliever alike.
" ...let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race
marked out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith ...

Consider Him who endured such
from sinful men,
so that you will not grow
and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3